Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-057145-4
Historical Romance, 2004
This book takes place at the same time that last year’s The Princess and the Pirate. I shudder for anyone who decides to slough through the painfully insipid The Princess and the Pirate but this unlucky person will have to, or the premise of The Princess Masquerade won’t make much sense to the new reader.
In The Princess and the Pirate, the Idiot Princess of Sedonia has to go incognito and solo on a diplomatic mission because enemies are out to do her in and the best way to go about doing things is to run wild and solo in a situation where she is hopelessly out of her depths in. You can read the rest of the predictably braindead antics of the Idiot Princess in that book if you wish. In The Princess Masquerade, someone has to take the place of the Idiot Princess while the real thing is off trying to win herself a Darwin Award. Enter the heroine, Megan O’Shay, a down on her luck Little Miss Sweet Street Waif working as a barmaid in the island of Teleere, a fictitious place far away from England but where the first language is apparently Cockney English.
Our hero Nicholas Argyle, a viscount of Sedonia, spots Meg when she steals his watch and knocks him unconscious after an unfortunate encounter. Meg is stupid enough to work in a bar where Nicholas spots her easily soon after and he, er, makes her come with him to Sedonia where he will train her to be the Idiot Princess’s stand-in. No, this doesn’t mean that Meg will have to live in a cage, howl for bananas, and pick lice with her fellow chimpanzee sisters, because chimpanzees are smart enough to be mortally insulted at being lumped together with the Idiot Princess. Instead, a My Fair Lady scenario ensues where Meg acts cute, plots stupid escape stunts that will never work, and whines and moans that her love story with Nicholas can never be because he’s a bloody Viscount and she’ll be out of Sedonia the moment the Idiot Princess comes home with her new and shiny Darwin Award plaque.
There is really nothing new to the characters of Nicholas and Meg. Nicholas is the fake rake sort with bad parent issues, Meg is predictably “Gutsy! Feisty! But oh! No Brains Included!”, and their love story is tepid at best. The author also takes liberties with inconsistencies and changes her rules as she pleases, such as letting Nicholas sneak into the Idiot Princess’s bedchambers for some hanky-panky rendezvous with Megan, when security should have been doubled since the Idiot Princess is supposed to be in danger and the kingdom is about to besieged by enemies of the kingdom. Meg’s transformation from Cute Waif to the Idiot Princess is way too easy, which makes me wonder why a supposedly feisty and smart Meg doesn’t just turn herself into a posh lady, snag herself a wealthy protector, and spare me from having to read this story.
The Princess Masquerade is a very, very, very average book that may as well come with “for reading in-between transit flights when there’s nothing else better and the passenger next to you isn’t a hot guy you want to flirt with” stamped on the cover.